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Lee Bernstein

There are many interesting topics about women and the connection with development that are examined in Duflo’s paper. The discussion about the role of institutions and laws on how women are overall treated, especially within their marriages, I found to be particularly interesting. When men in some of these countries know that women will not divorce them because females are not able to provide for themselves, it alters their behavior and they “can impose decisions on the household”(Duflo 1072). This speaks to the greater issue of the culture within that country and what it means for gender relations. In her conclusion, Duflo mentions needing to pursue, make, and implement decisions that will benefit women to help promote gender equality (Duflo 1076). This makes me think about the need to change culture within these countries in order to make a large difference. Even when there are politicians who are willing to make changes to promote women and gender equality, what keeps that leader in office long enough to implement those policies? Even if laws are in place, women need to understand how it affects them and what it empowers them to do. Additionally, they will likely need to feel that they can utilize these opportunities. I am curious to see and learn more about the role that media can play. If a country sees women making decisions or working a job on a tv show/movie or in the newspaper, would that help to change views on the traditional role of women in that country? How does it help to educate in a positive light about the changes in the law? I think for development and changing laws to create gender equality and make a difference efficiently, there first may need to be the start of a culture shift.

Megan Philips

Duflo’s Women Empowerment and Economic Development expanded on and gave really vivid examples of many of the themes we have talked about in class this week. The part of the article that I found most interesting was the section about what expanding economic opportunity looks like for the women in developing communities. While reading it, I kept thinking about Professor Casey’s point that it’s frustrating that women’s growth is often dependent on what they can contribute economically. This is seen in Duflo’s examples. As she mentions, it is not uncommon for parents to have lower employment aspirations for their daughters than they do for their sons which often leads to unequal treatment in other parts of their upbringing. The common theme that she touches on is that as developing countries are able to start using women for economic use and take advantage of how women can contribute to the labor force, women see better outcomes overall. Duflo uses the switch to tea production in China, which women are better suited to cultivate than men, and the growth of telemarketing positions in India which created enough positions to demand the women in the area. Both of these scenarios resulted in increased employment of women, and as she highlights, in India it resulted in increased English education for women that would not have been available to them before. I also found it interesting that in these areas where economic recruitment and growth increased, some of the communities began to respond with better treatment for all women, not just those in the positions. Duflo discusses how in the villages that knew that there would be increased interest in their workforce, which included women, there was an increase in how many young girls were in school and seemed healthier. While this is a great improvement, it is also frustrating that this capacity to better cater to women was available, but it was only the economic push that changed the situation. However, as we have talked about in class, developed countries are not perfect. Duflo talks about this in the section titled Will Economic Development Be Enough? She argues that since we see discrimination in developed countries to the extent that we do, whether that’s in terms of wages, opportunities, or expectations, development is not enough. The point that surprised me the most was that development can actually make some discrimination worse. She uses the increase in availability and use of gender-biased abortion in India, where the increased technology that comes with development resulted in the ability to use it to prefer boys over girls, as a really important point to discuss the negative effects. This negative outcome of development is based on a cultural implication. In this case, the tradition of the dowry still affected women to the same extent it did before their expansion of opportunity. I hope that this is something that we can talk about more – How do we approach increasing women’s agency and better their treatment through development when there are cultural forces at work as well?

Maggie Phipps

This paper did not make me feel like I won the gender lottery, but I am lucky to be born in a developed country. Esther Duflo seems to be analyzing a “chicken or egg” type of argument. Does economic development result in the empowerment of women, or does the empowerment of women lead to economic development? I believe that this question circles back nicely to Amartya Sen’s analysis of women’s welfare versus women’s agency. The argument that economic development relieves inequality between men and women seems to stem more from a welfare standpoint. If living standards for women are increased by economic development, then they will eventually encounter more gender equality. On the other hand, Sen’s concept of agency matches better with the argument that providing women with more rights will benefit economic development overall. Duflo concludes that neither argument supersedes the other, but increasing women’s rights is still an important goal. I think Sen and Duflo would agree on certain concepts of agency, for example, giving women the choice to divorce their husbands without becoming financially unstable helps the family dynamic equalize. That being said, I think Sen is quicker to draw positive conclusions about agency. For example, Duflo is skeptical about giving women property rights. It’s not that Duflo disagrees with it, but in areas like Burkina Faso, the family dynamic is so dysfunctional that it becomes counterproductive. Rather than pooling together resources to increase production, men and women farm separately. Women do not trust men to rent their plots of land, signaling issues within the family dynamic. Sen appears to have a more optimistic look at increasing women’s agency, but perhaps Duflo’s is more realistic.

Lucas Longo

While Duflo makes it clear in her article that she doesn’t believe economic development or women’s empowerment are able to start a self-sustaining cycle on their own, she does provide a lot of insight into some of the merits of each. To start, I found the part regarding differential treatment among girls and boys living in poverty particularly interesting. Although it wasn’t hard to believe that extreme instances of poverty would have a larger negative effect on girls, I was surprised to read that under “normal circumstances” boys and girls received similar treatment. This is encouraging for those that want to promote development as a means of empowering women, as women’s welfare may possibly improve simply from the reduction of severe poverty in a country. This does not just apply to younger girls either, as evidenced by the higher numbers of older women that are branded as witches and killed in Tanzania when the harvest is not plentiful.

Additionally, the expectations set for women seem to play a huge role in their empowerment. One example provided by Duflo was in regard to maternal mortality and its role in determining the level of parental investment. The story here was that parents would not expect girls to live as long as boys in areas where the maternal mortality rate was especially high, and this would discourage investment in any female children they had. Interestingly enough, one study even found that when maternal mortality rates fell in Sri Lanka, boys’ and girls’ education levels actually converged, possibly due to increases in investment in girls due to more positive future expectations. Furthermore, expectations are also important regarding how women perceive themselves, which can have real world effects that play out in what Duflo calls “stereotype bias”. For example, according to Duflo, when men and women take the same difficult math test, women will do worse than men; however, when they are told before taking the test that the stereotype that women are not as good at math does not apply to the test, they receive the same scores as men. Taking this into account, I think changing both men and women’s expectations and perceptions of women could be an area that leads to much more empowerment for women, and certainly warrants further study.

Tanner Smith

This article seems to confirm that as a country's wealth increases, so does the well-being of both men and women. As we talked about in class, however, well-being and agency are two very different things, even though they are somewhat interrelated. A huge part of agency, as this paper explores, is expectations. In many countries, parents have lower expectations for their daughters than for their sons, and transfer these lower expectations onto their daughters so that they expect less out of themselves. In countries where women are expected to be housewives, they are educated accordingly and have less resources invested in them. From a purely economic standpoint it seems like a very poor idea to preclude half of your population from making significant economic contributions, but the humanistic perspective we talked about in class is much more compelling to me. Women should not be given opportunities because it will better our economy; they should be given opportunities and treated equally because they are equally as human as men, and deserve the same rights and opportunities. Humans have spent thousands of years building societal structures that privilege some people over others, but at it's base, this makes little sense, other than for the people who are positions of privilege maintaining their positions of privilege. I think often about the John Rawls veil of ignorance, and how in that scenario, no one would design a societal structure where one group is privileged over the other, in the fear that they themselves would be placed into a less privileged group. I know that as a white male it is very easy for me to talk about these societal structures in a theoretical sense, while in practice benefiting from them. I struggle with what to do with this awareness, other than strive to treat people equally in my day-to-day life and play a small role in promoting equality. I saw a video recently titled "A Scary Time for Men," a parody on Donald Trump's recent comments about how it is tougher than ever to be a guy, where a young women wrote a song about all of the day-to-day struggles she has a women that men do not even think about. These included things such as not feeling safe jogging with headphones on, not being able to open her windows late at night when she is alone, not being able to go to a bar alone, and not being taken seriously if she shows any emotion. This video struck me as a lack of the type of positive freedoms that Sen talks about, and reaffirmed to me that we have a long way to go even in the U.S. in terms of gender equality. One of the traps that is easy to fall into is to think of women's rights as a developing country problem that the U.S. has overcome, but this is far from true in terms of women's actualized freedoms and agency in our society. It frustrates me not to have solutions to these deep societal problems, but the current landscape where at least these problems are now being recognized and discussed seems like a positive, albeit small, first step in the right direction.

Elly Cosgrove

What struck me the most about Esther Duflo’s piece, Women Empowerment and Economic Development, was a figure she threw out in the first paragraph: “Today, it is estimated that 6 million women are missing every year. Of these, 23 percent are never born, 10 percent are missing in early childhood, 21 percent in the reproductive years, and 38 percent above the age of 60.” I knew that Sen had mentioned the phenomenon of “missing women” in our reading earlier this week, but I did not realize the extent of how many women were “missing.”
Duflo talks about a “bidirectional relationship” between economic development and women empowerment. Which leads to the other? Does empowerment lead to economic development of does economic development lead to better conditions for women/ empowerment? Duflo explores this idea. A point that she made that I really appreciated was that the number of life or death decisions a household has to make decreases when we alleviate poverty in those struggling households—pretty standard. However, when poor households face life or death decisions, choices are often made at the expense of women. She goes on to suggest that when poor households face a crisis, such as drought, flood, famine, vulnerable women suffer. When these crises happen, the murder of “witches” are more likely to occur than in a normal year. These findings and observations suggest that we can improve the welfare of women of all ages by reducing “the grip of poverty.” Duflo also goes on to discuss how increased income and education drives down fertility rates as well. Women have higher chance of dying from childbearing in developing countries, so decreasing fertility rates helps decrease the number of “missing women” at childbearing age.
But Duflo says that there is enough evidence to believe that growth alone will not overcome discrimination within the home and among the opposite gender. Boys are still preferred over girls, which explains why 23 percent of girls are never born and why 10 percent go “missing” in early childhood. A first step is changing policy so that it favors girls and women. For example, a quota on how many women need to be represented in government. This leads to the question: Can women empowerment in turn lead to development? Women empowerment improves family outcomes, but not across the board, for example education. Duflo concludes that neither women empowerment nor economic development is the clear answer. What made me slightly uncomfortable, is that Duflo suggests that a desirable next step is to create policy that favors women at the expense of men. Is policy that uplifts women really not enough? Do we have to bring down the opposite gender or create policy “at the expense of men”? Also, what random experiments has Duflo conducted to explore this area? I was expecting to read more about her research, but did not feel as though she talked much about randomized experiments.

Nick Anders

In Esther Duflo’s paper, she raises the question of whether economic development breed empowerment of women or does the empowerment of women breed economic development. Furthermore, she wonders if the connectivity of the two could possibly result in a self-sustaining cycle of improvement.
I believe that it is important to implement policies that focus on both issues independently in many cases. By doing so, not only are the spillover effects still present, but awareness regarding these issues is being spread. Making sure people are aware of the areas in need of improvement is arguably the most important step in bettering the situations, as without support, nothing will last. Without reading a paper such as this, many people may be unaware of the interconnectivity of development and gender, possibly resulting in missed opportunities of improvement, furthering the need for the presence independent policies.
Additionally, it is important introduce some policies that focus on gender equality independently of development because in some cases, such as in India, improvements in economic development and technology have actually increased gender discrimination with the introduction of sex-selective abortions. Because of this, it is important introduce gender equality policies not only to offset this increase in discrimination, but to also reinforce a commitment to bettering women’s situation and giving them the support and confidence to become agents fighting for equal opportunity.
However, although it is important to impose policies that focus on both of these issues individually, I believe that there are some areas in which a policy could be implemented that adheres both to economic development and gender equality. For instance, Esther Duflo mentioned the disparity of access to health services between men and women in poor households; women are less likely to receive adequate care when ill compared to men. That said, the likelihood of such families having access to sufficient care is unlikely to begin with. Therefore, a policy designed to simply improve healthcare access to the poor would not only improve the lives of such families, thus promoting economic development, but would also benefit women specifically, providing them with more services.
All in all, after reading this paper, I wonder whether or not an impactful change in development and gender equality can occur within developing countries without first changing the cultural way of thinking both men and women.

Turner Banwell

Duflo's paper investigates the relationship between women's empowerment and the economic development of a country, specifically asking whether the two variables present evidence of positive correlation. If there was any doubt before, it should be clear after reading this paper that women's empowerment is vitally essential in the process of development. I found it interesting how Duflo outlined that economic development itself can lead to empowerment – something which at best is a somewhat satisfying mean to an end – and then noted that empowering women will “bring about changes in decision making,” something that will have a direct impact on development. Personally, the latter is a far more satisfying resolution to this issue, yet the question remains: what is the most effective way to accomplish this dynamic?
Esther’s final point suggested there may be an answer. She states, “in order to bring about equity between men and women… it will be necessary to take policy actions that favor women at the expense of men, and it may be necessary to continue to do so for a very long time.” Certainly, women around the world need and deserve this sort policy implementation in order to bridge the equality gap between men women; however, and perhaps this is too cynical, I wonder how many countries would actually go for this idea? It’s an incredibly unfortunately reality of the current world we live in that, objectively, there are still immense amounts of sexism in both developing and developed nations. The positive externalities of women’s empowerment – beyond the fact it’s the ethically right thing to do – that Duflo identifies in her paper should be convincing enough evidence for anyone in their right mind that a focus on policy for women’s empowerment is needed. Echoing several of the comments above, I too feel like changing the cultural norm of the way people perceive the role of men and women is equally if not more important than policy implementation. I certainly do not have all the answers, but I found it interesting and compelling that at least Duflo raises these important questions in her paper.


In her piece entitled Women Empowerment and Economic Development, Esther Duflo builds upon and expands upon many of the points we have discussed in class that were theorized by Amartya Sen in Development as Freedom.

Duflo emphasizes a few key points throughout her piece, and I found a few of these quite interesting. I found section 2.5 relating to giving women more legal rights very informative. Duflo points out that by giving women in poorer, developing countries more economic freedoms, the right to own land, and legal protections, the nation will experience economic growth. Just as Sen pointed out in his book, there is great importance in giving women personal freedoms for a nation to develop, since freedom is both the means and the end for development.

The second point I found important was her section about which policy decisions can be made to help empower these women and create an overall better society. One policy example Duflo mentioned was to shift more power to women in local and community elections. If that were to be done, they would better be able to understand the issues fellow women in their society face, and act upon those issues.

Overall, I thought the piece was very well-thought out and carefully written. There are large barriers that must be struck down for some of her policy suggestions (like placing more women into political positions), but I am sure if there is enough interest and support, it could be done. There is of course a gap between the two sexes, but certain policy could help close the gap and result in more balance.

Zainab Abiza

I really enjoyed reading this article because I could relate many of the issues mentioned to what I have seen and experienced at home. Although Morocco has made a huge progress when it comes to women's rights over the past few years, the country still faces significant gender inequality problems. Most of the time, women are perceived as subordinate to men and are not given the same opportunities. The rural vs. urban divide further exacerbates these gender inequalities.
In Morocco, about 50% of girls in urban areas complete schooling up to the age of 17. However, that figure drops to 18% for girls in rural areas of the country. Most of the time, girls in rural areas are expected to stay at home and help with household tasks or marry at an early age and move in with their husband's family. Many parents do not see the value or the long-term returns to educating their girls. Also, as mentioned in the article, many parents have lower aspirations for their daughters than for their sons. As a result, they are more likely to send their sons to school but not their daughters.
Another factor that contributes to the gender gap in education, especially in rural areas, is the proximity of the school and cultural norms. Parents usually feel more comfortable if their son had to walk or bike to school for an hour than if their daughter did. This summer, I worked with girls from remote and rural areas of Morocco that live in a dormitory in the city throughout the school year. Many of them shared with me that if it wasn't for this dormitory, they would not have been able to go to high school .
This article also made me think of what I have recently learned in my Culture and Development class about the bride price practice which still occurs today in a number of countries, including Indonesia. Bride price is a sum of money or good given to a bride's family by that of the groom. This practice often incentives parents to invest in educating their girls since it allows them to 'bargain' for a higher price. Ironically, this could also lead parents to NOT invest in their girl's education since more educated girls maybe be less 'marriageable'.
Looking at the bigger picture, policymakers should adopt specific strategies targeted at improving the condition of women rather on waiting for poverty to decline first then expecting gender equality to improve. As Kofi Annan said, I strongly believe that achieving gender equality is a prerequisite to achieving economic development and eliminating poverty.

Sam Boxley

Esther Duflo provides a thorough analysis of the two-pronged issue of inequality between men and women. Put simply, the relationship between economic development and women’s empowerment can be approached in two ways: development breeding increased empowerment, and empowerment catalyzing improved development. She sheds light on the idea that, despite the fact that only one or the other is usually emphasized by policymakers, neither strategy can competently achieve true equity on its own.
One aspect of the paper that really caught my attention was the discussion on the “implicit” bias faced by women in developed countries. While women clearly face a large degree of explicit discrimination and mistreatment in developing countries as evidenced by lack of political representation, education and work opportunities, health outcomes, bargaining power in the household, etc, the sort of deeply-rooted, almost unconscious inequality between men and women in all countries and the impact that it has on their respective outcomes was alarming. While the more clear form of female oppression seen in developing countries is obviously egregious, many of these issues, such as the tendency to sacrifice the health of female children for males when resources are scarce, can be remedied through poverty reduction. But the impact of the implicit associations made between men and women even in developed countries seems like a less clear-cut issue to tackle. Psychologists’ idea of the “stereotype threat”, which shows that, among other things, women are often associated with families while men are associated with careers, reinforces gender norms that prevent women from gaining true equality. Women have internalized notions that there are areas in which they are inherently inferior to men (such as the belief that they are worse at math than men), which inhibits the pursuit of female equality even with conditions that favor it. In addition, women are judged more harshly as leaders, especially when acting in a position that is typically thought of as a male role. This type of implicit bias against women comes as the result of consistent reinforcement of female inferiority throughout history, suggesting an issue so engrained in society that it could take generations to alleviate. This, along with a multitude of other points, helps provide justification for Dufflo’s theory that development alone cannot bring about gender equality. She suggests that while in the long run gender equality will bring about superior outcomes, “it will be necessary to continue to take policy actions that favor women at the expense of men, and it may be necessary to do so for a very long time.”

Cordelia Peters

Duflo argues that the interrelationship of women’s empowerment and economic development is too weak to be self-sustaining and therefore public policy is necessary to create sustainable progress. She discusses that economic development alone is not enough to bring about complete equality between men and women. Likewise, women’s empowerment improves children's welfare, but it doesn’t solve all of our problems. This essay emphasized the importance of the state to this process. The state should promote economic development by providing fundamental goods to all people and promote women’s empowerment by enhancing women’s legal rights. Women face many barriers such as inheritance laws and property rights that limit their ability to participate in the economy. Women in India are unlikely to have collateral to apply for a loan until the inheritance laws are changed. Violence against women persists because laws do not exist, or they are not enforced. These are two examples of barriers that limit women from fully participating in the development process and that need to be lifted by the government.

Duflo concludes that neither women’s empowerment nor economic development are sufficient. She then suggests policy action that favors women at the expense of men. I found this somewhat unsettling. It seems counterintuitive that a policy for gender equality would come at the expense of one of the genders. Does gender need to be a zero-sum game? Do we need to push down men in order to push up women?

The fact that many of the issues discussed in this paper are also true in the US today is extremely disheartening. Gender stereotypes persist in spite of income and economic development. At all levels of income, women do the majority of the housework. Increasing income does not release the “double bind” of women. How high does a woman’s income need to be before she can turn the household duties over to the husband? How long will it take men to accept a role within the household? The double bind for women will persist globally until the very fundamental stereotype of women as home makers goes away. This cannot happen through government intervention but will occur slowly as cultural norms change over time.

Claire McCutcheon

Duflo makes some very valuable comments about the roll of female empowerment and gender equality in development economics. Although this article is written by a Westerner, it is important to consider what people are doing domestically, within their own struggling countries to bring about economic changes for women. While in India, I had the opportunity to meet with the founder of the Azad foundation, a training and employment program located in poor urban areas in India. The foundation seeks out resource poor women in urban areas and offers them potential employment through a personal chauffer training program. India battles social inequity at two angles, not only is the gender divide immense, the stratification of the caste system poses another challenge to economic success for women, particularly those of lower caste. The Azad Foundation’s approach is unique in that it seeks to break down a gender barrier and put women in a male-dominated field like commercial driving, while simultaneously granting them living wages and agency. I believe that approaches like this, that uniquely push the envelope on social barriers and provide economic opportunity for women, provide great hope for female economic development. India is home to creative social innovators, programs like this exist in other male-dominated industries like computer programming and call-centers. While policy is important, and can bring about necessary changes in structure, mindsets have to shift too, of not only men, but women too. Economic opportunity for women that simultaneously changes ideas of gender roles are true steps toward gender equality that would be useful all over the world.

Katrina Lewis

I found Ester Duflo’s paper to be an important read. She included statistics measuring a variety of factors in both different countries and time periods, yet again and again they led to the same conclusion: gender inequality is hurting economic development because countries are not tapping into their women’s potential. I appreciated that Duflo did in several instances point out that empowering women can have costs associated with it. Empowering women is an undeniably important mission, but as with most policy decisions, it comes with tradeoffs. The example I found most compelling was the one considering funding scholarships for girls versus resources that could help both boys and girls, like hiring new teachers or deworming students. Even though I am an advocate for girls and women, this example made me think about the equity of spending the public’s money on resources for one gender over resources for both. I think Duflo did a great job of explaining how situations like the one at hand can be rationalized: “Policies that explicitly favor women need to be justified, not just in terms of being necessary to bring about gender equality, but in terms of gender equality itself being desirable and worth the cost it implies,” (1063). In the long run, there is no tradeoff between helping women instead of helping everyone because empowering women benefits everyone, as both Sen and Duflo show in various different ways.

Duflo’s paper reminded me a lot about the conversations my poverty studies class is having about impoverished women and their children. We recently read “Inequality at Birth” by Janet Currie, which looks at the difference between babies born to less educated mothers and babies born to more educated (often college educated) mothers. Currie uses birth weight as her measure of health at birth because although it is an imperfect measure, it is the best available and the most widely reported. She finds that, isolating for other factors, women receiving an additional year of college education reduces their babies’ potential for low birth weight by 10 percent. More education for the mother in general leads to a healthier outcome for her baby at birth. Currie suggests that incidences of low birth weight matter because poor health at birth goes on to affect educational outcomes and thus economic outcomes later in life. We have read other papers, too, that have emphasized the link between mothers and their children, so as I read Duflo’s paper, I found myself thinking about how the consequences of not empowering women can be passed down. For example, because families think educating girls is less important than educating boys, girls attend fewer years of schooling, and already through that choice, girls are more at risk to later in life to have sickly children that are disadvantaged at birth.

Andrew Zandomenego

It simply does not make sense for anyone to think that an economy can fully develop if half of its potential is not fully utilized. Esther Duflo begins with two broad assumptions in her argument for the role of women in development. First, economic development leads to the empowerment of women. Second, policies aimed at progressing women’s rights help catalyze development. Duflo evaluates the validity of these two beliefs by analyzing arguments for and against them. She ultimately lands at the conclusion that neither approach will successfully reach both goals of development and women’s equality. Therefore, an approach incorporating the two is essential.
Duflo provides evidence expressing the effects of development on women’s rights and the effects of women’s rights on development. Duflo finds that when a family’s economic condition is improved from the bare minimum, women are provided with more opportunity and choice. In the case of the U.S., although conditions were not raised from the bare minimum, an economic expansion sparked a demand for clerical workers, opening opportunities for women to enter the labor market. Another important note on the effects of economic development that Duflo mentions is that when conditions are improved, women have more time for themselves. This occurs because economic growth is associated with lower fertility rates, higher access to goods that reduce household work, and so on. However, economic development does not equate to economic empowerment, particularly due to an implicit bias many societies have that women are limited to certain functions in the household. This implicit bias creates a thick glass ceiling.
When the focus is on female empowerment, there are many positive externalities exhibited. When female decision making in three realms (the household, the farm, and the community) are improved through policies, overall improvements to health, education, and environmental conditions are visible. These improvements catalyze economic development. For instance, Duflo points out the UN goal that aims to fill 30% of a given country’s elected positions with women. In cases where more women are elected into office, communities experience improvements in health, education, and gender equality. This last point is similar to Sen’s freedom-freedom idea where empowering women allows them to further empower other women in hopes to reach an equal state.
The point which stuck out to me the most was made in Duflo’s concluding remarks. She believes that an emphasis on empowering women at the cost of men is necessary to progress from society’s current state. That means more policies centered around empowering women, such as a central focus on the education and health of young girls.

Paul Callahan

Duflo brings up a very important and interesting topic in this article about women. The gap between women and men in equality has vastly improved over the last few decades but not to the extent that it should have. Sen's argument of "missing women" is key to this. Missing women shows to us the unequal treatment of women particularly in developing countries. Generally in every single statistic in relation to education, labor and politics women suffer at an awful rate that shouldn't exist for a group that makes up 50% of the world's population.
Later in the article, what stands out to me is when Duflo talks about the "implicit bias" that women face in the work force. There is a stigma that men work in careers and sciences and women are stuck in the home and study liberal arts. There is a great need to dissolve these biases in order to create a more balanced and likely more profitable economy and work force. What I liked additionally was the argument that giving additional resources to women in order to further their rights and grow their equality doesn't limit those resources just to women, but rather it helps everybody. Giving resources to women and growing their rights will benefit everybody, especially when you look at the situation economically. The empowerment of women would benefit the families, which in the long run improves the economy as a whole. Politically, women would have more bargaining power allowing their families to benefit even further.
Whether attacking development to increase women's empowerment or empowering women first to bring about changes to develop the economy is an interesting argument and I don't think there is necessarily a right or wrong answer as long as women's rights and power is being grown.

Charlie Bovard

Esther Duflo's article highlights the relationship between economic development and women's enablement, and brings up a variety of interesting ideas. I've always figured that the development of a society would be the key driver of the agency and well-being of women, but until reading this article congruently with Sen's book did I consider the opposite of the relationship: that women's empowerment leads to economic development. I think her best point is how furthering the employment opportunities for women relates to the education of children as a whole as well as the driver for economic development. Women's education leads to a higher value in education, and creates a reinvestment effect for the education of a society, aiding the development of a country. Another key area that I found interesting that I hadn't considered prior to reading her article is the way women spend their time. Duflo lays out the opportunity costs that women forgo in their participation in the work force when they are doing the majority of the care involved with the household activities. Isolating a portion of the labor force to remain in the household, and out of labor markets, simply doesn’t make sense from an purely economic viewpoint. She reinforces this point by also pointing out how their time and participation is affected by high fertility rates, how it makes you wonder if a mandatory fertility limit, like China, is an unrealistic approach to this problem. I agree with Dulfo's argument that we can't simply let economic development haphazardly improve the livelihood and freedoms of women, and that there need to be a more active approach in developing countries to improve the empowerment of women.


The overarching message that resonates from Esther Duflo’s piece is the interconnectedness between economic development and women’s empowerment. Going along with this point, Duflo points out that although economic development and women’s empowerment are “mutually reinforcing” in creating equality between women and men, these two areas need to be targeted by public policy in order for them to be effective. The empowerment of women helps accelerate development because it reduces poverty on the whole. Throughout this term we have come to learn that the reduction of poverty directly leads to the development of a country. The reduction of poverty allows households to be better equipped to withstand crisis. Given the fact that in under developed countries women are often treated as secondary in the household, crises, in whatever form they take, disproportionately harm women more than men. Therefore, by increasing households ability to withstand these crisis, the well-being of women rises as a whole.

The other piece of this article I found extremely compelling was Duflo’s dissection of the connection between the amount of opportunities for women in the labor market and their treatment in the household. Duflo argues that when women have fewer opportunities in the labor market compared to men, a perception is created that they do not need to be as strong and healthy as men. This furthermore leads to a stigma where male education takes priority over female education. The argument presented creates the logical conclusion that raising the amount of employment opportunities outside the home for women in developing countries will cause not only them to value education more highly, but also cause men to value the education of women. If ample opportunities present themselves to women, their education and well-being will become more highly valued thus leading to better equality between men and women. In light of this reasoning, Duflo advocates for policy to be focused directly on increasing employment opportunities for women.


I thought Esther Duflo does a great job documenting the history and research on women’s role in economics so far. It encapsulates a lot of topics that people generally talk about, but also some that are not often discussed, such as the bargaining power over how many children to have. I thought it was interesting how Duflo discussed that males tend to prefer more children than women, as expected. More importantly, it was interesting to see the results of the study in Zambia that secrecy played a significant role in the decision for amount of children.

One thing that caught my attention was in the section regarding an “implicit bias” of associating males with “career and the sciences” and females with “family and liberal arts.” I was slightly confused about the association test that Duflo cites for support, as I felt like the test doesn’t really show a great representation of this idea. Anyways, the last sentence is what really struck me and that “both women and men are more likely to associate women with family and men with careers.” This was particularly interesting because it wasn’t even that men were solely putting themselves in the “career” category, but also that women were putting themselves into those stereotypes as well.

Another thing is that every time I see stats about life expectancy I am always astonished at how women outlive men. This piece made it particularly significant since it outlined so many ways that women are slighted compared to males. Every time I hear the stats I always begin to wonder reasons why these are the results. Is it because male health suffers from stress of trying to provide economically for family? I feel like that is a bit of stretch since women in many societies probably endure a lot of stress to avoid fights, abuse, or other further harm. Is it the compounding effects of rigorous manual labor wearing down male health? I would be curious to see further research in these particular impoverished cultures as to why women outlive men.

All in all, I think that the biggest problem with women's empowerment in poorer cultures is the idea of the economic value of offspring. Subsistence farmers make up a large amount of the poor population, and males are preferred to be income-earners for the family. As we've discussed in our class, as well as in other development classes this semester, many cultures don't have a true economic value for women. This is very disheartening. I believe the primary method for climbing out of this discrimination/prejudice, whatever one wants to call it, is by the providing women some income-earning possibilities first. Most likely through state funding/legislature. Then, I think, the inherent discrimination against women will decrease at a faster rate. Again, it's disheartening that people can't recognize an equality between both sexes, but after all, these poor farmers need to earn an income or at least produce enough to survive. Until an income flow is generated in the economy for women, it will be difficult to shake the long-standing norms of female inequality.

Tom Kellogg

Duflo challenges the notion that gender equality and rights for women improve when poverty declines and development increases. Kofi Annan said that “achieving gender equality is a “prerequisite” to achieving the other Millennium Development Goals” (1053) as it leads to a great efficacy for women and increases in development. Duflo does submit that economic growth can have an important positive impact on gender equality, but the effects are not enough. Duflo points out that fertility decreases with rises in income, and age at first birth increases with those rises. This is an especially important point, as “very young mothers are more likely to die or have complications in childbirth,” (1056) which in itself reduces the number of missing women by decreasing the chances a woman dies in childbirth. The paper hits especially on educating women, how female education leads to more employment opportunities which causes women to be treated better within and without the household. Accordingly, an increase in female or mother income by “7 U.S. dollars per month (10 percent) translates into a 1 percentage point increase in the survival rate for girls” (1057). We can see that it is extremely important to educate women, who then are able to find employment outside of the household, leading to a higher survival rate for girls. However, sex identification and abortion can be a huge problem, as families are more apt to select boys in childbirth (potentially skewing the statistics of missing women because many are never even more). As James Wolfensohn put it “education for girls has a catalytic effect on every dimension of development… [enabling] more and more women to attain leadership positions at all levels of society…in turn, [changing] the way societies will deal with problems and [raising] the quality of global decision-making” (1064). Duflo sums it up perfectly “women’s empowerment and development mutually reinforcing each other” (1076) means that economies will begin to be brought into the worldwide economic fold with and by a culture that encourages and relies on women to spur development and growth.

Maddox Wilkinson

I found this article to be very insightful and complimented our reading of Sen’s chapter on women’s agency very well. One thing I found particularly interesting was the statistic showing 38% of women over 60 go missing. Is this mostly due to unequal access to healthcare at this age or perhaps unequal economic opportunity/family support? Do welfare programs cater more towards men in some of these countries? It wasn’t surprising to read that many older women are accused as witches when times are tough, but surely this doesn’t account for all 38% that are reportedly missing.
Another thing that I think is important to remember is that the statistics on missing women are exactly that and don’t consider all the opportunities that women miss out on every day. Although this paper highlights that recently women have seen some growth in access to these essential needs like healthcare, education, and workplace equality. How much more growth could there be if the current attitude towards women in many places was changed permanently, not just when times are good?
One thing that occurred to me while reading this piece was Tim’s comment about his experience this summer in Mexico when a man was denied his paycheck yet still had to go to work the next week. How big of an issue is this for women in these countries as they are increasingly able to enter the workforce and given more agency? In the first paper we read by Adam Smith, he stresses the importance of trust and fairness as a central pillar to society. Obviously, this idea of fairness is largely missing in the majority of societies today. The development side of this argument appears to be the answer to this, as nations develop they will create the institutions necessary to enforce this idea of fairness and through women’s empowerment they will fight for the necessary policy changes. However, if Adam Smith’s claim is accurate, why haven’t we seen that “without fairness it would crumble”? In many poorer countries this may be more evident, but even in some of the richer countries I would expect to see more evidence of this claim as it relates to discrimination against women.

Clair Spotts

Esther Duflo’s piece was very enlightening to the way in which women act and are perceived in societies today. One statistic that surprised me was that women in Sweden spent 70% more time caring for their children than their male counterparts. I found this so shocking because it seems the Scandinavian countries are often used as the ideal of developed nations. They have low crime, some of the best educational attainments, and yet an inherent cultural bias still exists in terms of women and childcare.

This paper reminded of a question I’ve had for a while in this class: do the people in these studies receive some sort of payment from being studied? In some cases, one group often receives some sort of benefit (from one example in this paper, contraceptive vouchers), but do they receive a monetary payment for participating in the study as well? Should they receive such a payment, since the purpose of the study, and other studies like it, is to better understand those in developing countries so that things may be changed and resources may be provided to help reduce their poverty and increase their freedom as individuals? Another aspect of the study that made me a bit uneasy was the division of the study groups. Of course I understand the importance of these studies, and yet it seems unfair, and maybe even unethical, to offer one group a benefit and not the other. In one case from this paper, both groups were offered the benefit of contraceptive vouchers but one group was offered the voucher in the presence of their husbands while the other was offered the voucher in secret. The study resulted in the expected findings that women who received the vouchers in secret benefited significantly more from the voucher. Is it ethical to withhold the potential freedom of someone (via giving the voucher in the presence of their husband) for the sake of a study? What would Sen say to that?

India’s approach to increasing women’s participation in government was quite intriguing. Under their reservation policy, “at each election, one-third of the villages are random selected and must elect a woman at the head of the local council” (1071). This has lead to a decrease in bias against female leaders, as well as an increase in female educational attainment in villages that had a reserved position. I’m not well versed on the workings of the Indian political system, but I wondered how such a reservation position system could work in the US. Currently there are 84 women in the House, 23 in the Senate, and six serving as governors. To hit the 30% benchmark there would have to be 130, 30, and 15 in each position. The reserved position would have to be announced significantly ahead of time to ensure that each party put forth a female candidate. Male incumbents would, inevitably, be knocked out, regardless of their popularity or their job performance. The current freedom of Americans, including women, to choose specifically who they wanted most as their representative, would be taken away in order to promote future freedoms of American women in politics and, more broadly, Americans’ ability to choose the best representative, without being swayed by an inherent gender bias. This reservation system would lead to more women in politics and thus, in theory, better qualified candidates overall. This in some ways parallels my thoughts on RCTs above, but is the lessening of freedoms of today (in pursuit of freedoms of tomorrow) worth the freedoms tomorrow will bring? Is the potential withholding of aid in order to study its effects on different families worth the benefit of knowing the effects?


Esther DuFlo’s paper on women’s empowerment and development encapsules many of the thoughts that I had considered during the Sen reading and our class on Wednesday. The concluding remarks that there is no magic bullet for development really resonated with me. I would love to believe that we could simply invest in women (or anything, for that matter) and the global economy would grow exponentially, but that isn’t necessarily how the empirical evidence shapes up. A concern of mine, however, is with the mentality that investment in women must be justifiable and benefit the entire population. An investment in women that has negligible effects on men is still an investment into women. Every investment need not benefit men in order to be justified.

I think that when we focus too aggressively on this “magic bullet,” we lose sight of how advantageous an investment could be, even if it doesn’t ignite full scale development in a nation. A series of small investments that improve the quality of people’s lives is still valuable for a developing nation. This is apparent when viewing the compounding effect of improvements to the quality of life in a country that is continually the recipient of investment. Small changes spark more small changes. This ripple effect may not pull a nation out of poverty, but it can make thousands of lives much better— and that is still an overwhelming success.


In "Women Empowerment and Economic Development", Esther Duflo outlines her view of the discussion on the relationship between female empowerment and development. Duflo makes many persuasive arguments throughout her paper, however, at the beginning I found one point concerning. She says the empowerment of women through policy action is unambiguously justified when there is development because of it. This concern was brought up in class and therefore jumped off the screen when read. This idea that women should be treated the same but only if it makes economic sense is an idea that should not be continued any longer than it already has.

Continuing with the discussion of women's rights and empowerment later in the paper, Duflo explains part of the "missing women" issue with the high rates of infanticide and sex-selective abortion. The advertisement for a sex-selective clinic in Mumbai saying that it is "better to pay Rs 500 now than Rs 50,000 later," was especially horrifying. Part of this can be explained by culture norms that don't view women as the half of a healthy and productive economy that they can be. If women don't have opportunities in the work-force then they won't have as many rights. This is part of the link that Duflo helps to connect between development and empowerment. While Duflo ultimately finds the link between the two to be no "silver bullet" for solving either issue, she nevertheless admits there are positive coorelations. I would go further than she does and agree with Sen that freedom, and in this case women's freedom, is crucial to moving a society forward economically.

Jordan Watson

I found Esther Duflo’s article very insightful due to the extensive amount of studies she references to flesh out the relationship between economic development and women’s empowerment. Ultimately, she concludes that development will bring about women’s empowerment and empowering women will bring about changes in decision-making and have a direct impact on development. However, she emphasizes that making improvements to one of these two variables is not a simple solution to poverty and inequality. More specifically as she mentions in her conclusion, a one time increase in women’s rights does not create a continuous cycle of improvement of both development and again advance women’s empowerment.

One portion of the paper that I found particularly interesting was Duflo’s discussion of the effectiveness of top-down policy interventions versus bottom-up improvements in human capital. Top down interventions include changes in the law, changes in electoral rules, and changes in the rule governing programs; all of which can change women’s effective power. In the article, Duflo mentions how better divorce policy can increase women’s bargaining power in the household. A woman would not feel trapped in a relationship where the male takes control over all household decisions if there was proper policy in place to not be in the relationship. On the other hand, a more bottom-up approach to increase empowerment of women is investing in women’s human capital (for example improving access to education). There is significant amount of literature on the correlation between mother’s education and child welfare. For example, households have fewer children when the wife has more education. As a result, each child should get more care and resources. While a human capital investment would taking a longer time to see effects, I feel like it would be equally or even more effective as top-down policies in the long run.

After reading this article, I think Esther Duflo certainly raises a lot of important questions that enable people to start thinking of women as a very key player in increasing overall world development.

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